Signs geared to protecting salmon habitat were damaged at the Fraser River near Chilliwack. (Facebook)

New signs for protecting Fraser River habitat near Chilliwack vandalized

Fishery officers want off-road users to enjoy river resource in the 'least damaging way possible'

Bent, torched and damaged signs were strewn on a gravel bar by the Fraser River near Chilliwack.

The signs from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) had been geared to educating Gill bar users about protecting salmon habitat. Less than a week later most had been vandalized.

They had been intended as part of an awareness campaign to clarify what constitutes habitat for salmon and trout, asking all users of the popular gravel bar to avoid damaging it.

“The signage in the area was one of DFO’s responses to the recent coverage of trucks driving through side channels at Gill Bar, potentially causing harmful alteration, disruption or destruction (HADD) to fish habitat contrary to section 35(1) of the Fisheries Act,” said Bijan Sametz-Asgari, fishery officer, DFO Fraser Valley East, C&P.

The video, posted online and then removed, showed a convoy of four-wheeling trucks charging through the side channels and foreshore at Gill bar. It caused a stir among river stewards, off-roaders, and conservation groups, as well as DFO officials.

For Gill bar it will likely come down to a question of users respecting the resource – or losing access to it.

Discussions are underway about making a change in the Crown land tenure at Gill Road, such as making it into a park. Talk about turning it into a park in order to protect it, started a few years ago after ongoing problems with garbage-dumping and squatters.

“The purpose of the signs was to bring awareness to Gill Bar users and direct their activity to enjoy the area’s privileges in the least damaging way possible,” the fishery officer concluded. “DFO will continue to monitor the solution and is actively looking into several long-term solutions to what has historically caused fish habitat concerns.”

A couple of fishery officers went to Gill Bar on March 1 to check on the situation at the popular recreation area after receiving reports to DFO’s Observe Record Report (ORR) line that a new sign had already been vandalized.

“The officers checked the location of every sign and noted three out of the five had been damaged,” said Sametz-Asgari.

The remnants of one sign were in a fire-pit, only the steel post remaining. Officers found clumps of the burnt aluminum in the ashes.

“Another sign was found along the Fraser River bank, about 100 metres from where it had been originally posted, and the sign had a noticeable bend in the upper left corner.”

The third sign was the one that prompted the call to DFO’s Observe Record Report line.

“When the complainant called into the ORR, they submitted a photo with it out of the ground and in a fire pit.

“However, a Good Samaritan had reposted it before the officers arrived on-scene.

The fishery officer said DFO would like to remind the public that anyone who sees a fisheries-related violation to call the ORR line ( 1-800-465-4336) or the police if they observe any other mischief or vandalism. The non-emergency Chilliwack RCMP number is 604-792-4611.

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Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: jfeinberg@theprogress.com


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